Sophisticated, elegant, and tailored clothing for men and women is the specialty at Nick Hilton Princeton. This unique studio/store at 221 Witherspoon Street, opened in 2001, and has become an important resource for Princeton clients looking for fine quality styling.
Long known for its outstanding menswear, the store added women’s clothing in 2006. It became such a success that the studio/store expanded its space in 2013 to accommodate additional items for women, as well as more room for men’s made-to-order, custom clothing.
“The biggest change is the size of the women’s section,” notes Mr. Hilton. “The expansion actually gave women their own store. There are really now two separate stores under the same roof: men’s and women’s. The women’s section is no longer just a corner in the men’s store.”
Of course, gentlemen continue to count on finding the highest quality apparel as well as helpful, knowledgeable service. Mr. Hilton is an expert in all areas of menswear, including customized design, featuring comfortable elegance.
The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. presidents, statesmen, captains of industry, entertainers and sports figures. Mr. Hilton’s classic yet individual designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.
“My great-grandfather Joseph Hilton and his brothers came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom-tailoring shop,” recalls Mr. Hilton. “They opened a series of shops called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually, there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey. The name was later changed to Browning King & Co.
“My grandfather Alex Hilton and my father Norman Hilton continued in the business. After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Navy in World War II, my father later created the Norman Hilton Country Line. He established a wholesale business that we never had before.”
Nick Hilton wasn’t quite sure whether to follow in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, but in fact, the interest was there, and he started out in Italy, working for a trouser manufacturer. When he returned to the U.S., he became a salesman for the family business, and found that he was to wear many hats.
“By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company.”
His real interest was in design, however, with a focus on softer tailoring and subtle patterns. His designs emphasized an international updated traditional style. “It’s not fashion in the sense of anything trendy or a novelty,” he notes. “We reinvent and update tradition.”
When he opened his own studio, sports coats, trousers, shirts, and ties were available all with the Nick Hilton label. Eventually, Hickey Freemen suits, sports coats, sweaters, and jeans were added, as well as pajamas and robes.
The holidays — as well as weddings and other special events — are a popular time for formal wear, even in an increasingly informal society. Tuxedos and accessories are available, as well as a handsome black velvet jacket, suitable for a tux or even as a smoking jacket.
“We also have private label dress shirts from New England, and our shearling coats with cashmere outers are very popular for the winter. They can be sporty or dressy, and some of the coats are waterproof. In addition, we have high-quality Canali suits and sports coats from Italy. This is a very fine Italian line. The quality and styling of Italian tailoring is outstanding, and it creates an appreciation for high quality among customers.”
The store also offers a selection of Santoni shoes from Italy, adds Mr. Hilton. “These are light-weight, and often have rubber soles. They are stylish and very comfortable.”
In addition, new this year are “Heal Goods” socks for men designed by Princeton resident Grant Ward. “He decided to go into the hosiery business,” explains Mr. Hilton. “The socks have been very popular, and offer great designs in cashmere, wool, and blends.”
The variety of scarves, including cashmere, leather gloves, and belts, offers many sought-after accessory possibilities.
Mr. Hilton enjoys helping his customers achieve a total look. “Men don’t always like to shop or change their style. I enjoy exposing them to something new and educating them. We help them with the total outfit. They typically buy three or four items rather than one. We can put it together for them.”
Indeed, the shop includes a number of displays featuring ensembles which Mr. Hilton has coordinated to show how different colors, textures, and patterns can work together.
And the displays for women are just as appealing. Sophisticated, elegant, tailored clothing that their customers enjoy wearing are the focus of the women’s department, notes co-owner and women’s buyer Jennifer Hilton. “We have a lot of new lines, including Dara Lamb, which we will offer in the spring, as well as a Max Mara boutique. Max Mara has been very popular for us, and we currently carry two of their lines — Weekend and Studio.”
She points out a lovely Max Mara double-faced fabric jacket and a charming lightweight leather jacket, also a Max Mara design.
Cambio jeans continue as customer favorites, she adds, “And we have had fabulous novelty printed designs on the jeans, tone-on-tone and printed on velvet. We’ll be getting more of them for spring. Prints generally are very big now, including in printed dresses. Cropped pants from Italy are also big sellers.”
Another popular seller is a soft, lightweight goatskin jacket featuring a stretch side panel for fit from Gimo’s of Italy. A selection of lovely cashmere sweaters in a palate of pastels is available for winter or spring.
Life and Color
“Scarves add life and color to any outfit,” points out Ms. Hilton, and the store offers a wide assortment. A beautifully soft and filmy lightweight wool is in an “Ombre” design with a “lobster” red and “chalk” blend of colors.
A gorgeous line of extra large silk scarves features dramatic designs and stunning colors, with nature motif, including birds and flowers. “They are 42 inches square, and I wanted them to be large enough so they don’t slide off the shoulder,” notes Ms. Hilton. “Made in North Carolina, they are in crepe de chine, and are extremely dramatic with extraordinary clarity of color”
Quality is the key to Nick Hilton Princeton, and both Mr. and Ms. Hilton are proud of what they have offered their scores of customers of all ages over the past 12 and a half years. “We offer fit and style that is appropriate to all ages,” notes Mr. Hilton. “We don’t have the most expensive items, but we do have the best quality. Quality is not just about durability and how it feels. It has to do with beauty and an aesthetic. And we think in terms of style, not fashion. Style remains; fashion comes and goes.
“I’m enjoying myself thoroughly,” he adds. “What I do as a retailer is my real passion. It is most enjoyable interacting with customers all day. What is most satisfying is helping people with their lives. Helping to give them enjoyment, confidence, and satisfaction. Clothing is evidence of one’s personality. And it is nice to help someone select an outfit they can enjoy.”
Mr. Hilton also looks forward to focusing more on design in the year ahead. “We are planning to work with a tailor shop, which will make clothing only for us. It will basically be our design. In addition, I will be designing men’s sport coats and trousers. Custom work has always been our hallmark, and we will focus on this.”
Customers who visit Nick Hilton Princeton will find a store filled with beautiful clothing for men and women in an atmosphere of friendly, knowledgeable service.
Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. 609-921-8160. Website: www.nickhilton.com.